Five Authors + Five Questions : Goals

Writers write. It’s what we do. To go above and beyond that, by answering interview questions they receive in email, is astounding indeed! For this round of Five Authors/Five Questions, I’ve barged into the workdays of Louise Marley, Lavie Tidhar, Lisa Mantchev, E.C. Myers, and Jay Lake.

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Question one: Do you make yearly writing goals? Monthly goals? Are goals measured by word count, story count, or something different?

Louise Marley: My goal is to write every day.  Even on vacation, I typically spend some time each day on the current project.  As I plan my schedule, working in exercise and household commitments, I try to set aside a block of completely unencumbered time each day when I can eliminate all distractions and concentrate on the novel or story I’m writing. Distractions, I’m convinced, are the greatest enemies of creativity.  In the world of the 21st century, we have an abundance of them:  internet, TV, radio, cell phones, and so forth.  My best work gets done when there’s no interference by any of these things, and the only person who can turn them off or tune them out is ME!

Lavie Tidhar: I’ll aim for a minimum of 1000 words a day, but obviously some days you end up not writing anything, or falling short, and some days you get all your work done before 11am in the morning. My goal for 2012 is just to finish a whole bunch of half- or third-completed projects. Generally I like to alternate, and to work on more than one thing at a time. But I take a fairly relaxed approach to goals. I don’t really think in terms of years or months or even know what I’ll be working on, exactly. As long as I’m enjoying myself–and as long as I do complete things! –I’m quite happy.

Lisa Mantchev: I usually measure my goals by project. “Need to draft a new novel. That’s about 75,000 words,” or “Have a story due for an anthology, about 8,000 words.” I like writing at least one new novel and a handful of shorter pieces every year.

E.C. Myers: These days my goals are purely based on deadlines. Having a contractual obligation to deliver a manuscript by a certain date is a powerful motivator! But left to my own devices, I’m fairly focused on project-oriented goals: to complete another novel revision in X months, to draft a new short story for the next writing group meeting, to submit three short stories to markets. I find word count and story count to be good markers of progress and productivity, but not necessarily goals in themselves. As long as I’m writing and have concrete measures of success, like a completed draft—and, of course, as long as I’m happy with the work—the work takes as long as it takes, and it’s as long as it needs to be… Unless I’m falling behind on those deadlines! Then I’d probably better set some kind of schedule, and stick to it.

Jay Lake: I make yearly goals these days. Essentially, I plan out what I intend to write for the year, in a fairly high level way, and assign a production calendar. It might say something like, “Jan-Feb, draft novel X. March, work on short fiction. April, revise novel Y.” I also have goals for individual projects. For example, when working on a first draft of a novel, I try to write 2,500 words per day. When working on a revision of a novel, I try to do at least an hour a day on the project. I do track these, and self-report, to keep myself honest. Also, I allow myself up to two days off a week for brain breaks or dealing with life’s inevitable interruptions. At other times in my career, I’ve had other kinds of goals. For example, from 2001 to about 2005, my practice was to finish a short story or novel chapter every week, all year long. As I shifted more heavily into writing novels, that stopped being practical, but it served me well at the time.

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How do you structure your own writing goals? What goals have you set for 2012? Leave us a comment! Next Wednesday, we talk about the “typical” writing day. Is there any such thing?

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